Our sun will eventually exhaust its core hydrogen and evolve off the key sequence right into a red giant. After the helium flash initiates helium-burning that will relocate onto the horizontal branch then increase to become an AGB star. This page now explores the fate of stars of 8 solar masses or less. This stars space destined to eject planetary nebulae and also end up together white dwarfs.

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Planetary Nebulae

In an AGB star, if the helium fuel in the He-burning shell runs low, the outside radiation pressure drops off. Together this was previously holding the end the covering of hydrogen gas this shell now contracts, heats up and ignites, converting hydrogen to helium. This helium "ash" in turn falls onto the helium shell, heating it up till the is hot enough to re-ignite in a helium-shell flash, creating a heat pulse. Increased radiation press now causes the hydrogen covering to expand and cool, shutting down H-shell burning.

The interval in between successive heat pulses decreases together the AGB star ages. For solar-mass stars together pulses significantly increase the luminosity for several decades. In time the external layers of the AGB star are almost totally ejected and may initially show up as a circumstellar shell. The ejected cloud consists of dust grains of silicates and also graphite in addition to hydrogen and elements created via nucleosynthesis reactions within the parental star. The cloud has typical expansion velocities of 10s of kilometres per second.Our sun will shed around 40% the its mass throughout this phase. Much more massive stars shed a greater percentage of their initial mass.

With the ejection of the external layers of the star, the hot, thick core is left exposed. It is originally so hot that the intense ultraviolet radiation that emits ionises the expanding, ejected shell. This results in the cloud glowing, comparable to an emissions nebula. Together objects are dubbed planetary nebulae after your initial description by Herschel in the 18th century. Through small telescopes they appear as faint discs, like a dim world though they are not related. Planetary nebulae generally contain 0.1 - 0.2 solar masses at densities equivalent to a vacuum ~ above Earth. Spectacular pictures by modern-day telescopes consisting of the HST disclose a wide range of shapes that attitude interesting troubles for philosophers to explain.


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The bipolar nature of many planetary nebulae may be due to the parent star gift in a binary system. Solid magnetic fields of remnant cores may likewise influence the form of the nebulae. Colour of the nebulae reveals information around their composition. The characteristic blue-green colour is from the doubly-ionised oxygen emissions, OIII. Oxygen, carbon and also some s-process facets ejected by AGBs and found in planetary nebulae may at some point seed the ISM for the next generation that star formation. Several of the carbon and oxygen in our bodies may have come from such nebulae, the rest most likely came indigenous supernovae explosions.

Planetary nebulae execute not exist for long. An widening shell the dust and also gas may only be visible for a few 20,000 year or so prior to dispersing into the ISM. Over there are, however, end 1,500 well-known in ours galaxy and also others space visible in adjacent galaxies. Castle are advantageous as one an approach for determining ranges to this galaxies.


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Credit: Left:NASA, ESA, HEIC, and The Hubble heritage Team (STScI/AURA), Right: NASA, NOAO, ESA, the Hubble Helix Nebula Team, M. Meixner (STScI), and T.A. Rector (NRAO).

Although a planetary nebula is just short-lived, the exposed core remains. We shall now see what happens to it.

White Dwarfs

The exposed, remnant main point that ionised the planetary nebula material is basically very hot, thick sphere the carbon and also oxygen. Any hydrogen not ejected easily fuses via shell-burning. When originally exposed, the central star, v a temperature higher than 30,000 K may have actually a luminosity 100,000 × the of ours Sun but it easily fades by up to 90% within a century. The stellar remnant becomes a white dwarf or wd with a surface temperature of about 104 K.


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White dwarfs have actually unusual properties. Firstly, they are very tiny but the an ext massive white dwarfs space actually smaller than less huge ones. V their fuel offered up no blend takes place so over there is no outside radiation press to withstand gravitational collapse. An ext massive stellar cores experience more powerful gravitational pressure so in reality compress more. A 0.5 solar-mass white dwarf has a radius 1.9 × that of Earth, a 1.0 solar-mass one is only 1.5 planet radii whilst a 1.3 solar-mass white dwarf 1.4 planet radii. A white dwarf is written of carbon and also oxygen ions blended in v a sea that degenerate electrons. The is the degeneracy pressure detailed by the electrons that prevents further collapse.

A white dwarf, with a mass roughly that of the sun packed into a volume not much higher than the planet must have really high density. At 109 kg m-3 its thickness is one million times greater than that of water. Back its surface ar temperature is about 10,000 K, the core temperature might be together high as 107 K. The warmth trapped in ~ a white dwarf will gradually be radiated away by it yet with its small radius, a white dwarf has only a small surface area. Heat as such cannot escape quickly. In fact it will certainly take 10s to thousands of billions that years for a white dwarf to radiate away its heat and also cool under to a black, inert clump of carbon and degenerate electrons. Together the universe is not yet old enough for this to have happened, every the white dwarfs the have ever before formed in single-star systems room still white dwarfs.

Interestingly, not only are the an ext massive dwarfs smaller sized than less substantial ones, castle are also less luminous for the reason explained above. Usual luminosities are less than 10-3 the of our Sun. An ext massive white dwarfs, having smaller surface locations but more trapped heat, take longer to cool under than lower-mass ones. Together white dwarfs space so faint they are additionally hard to detect. Us are just able to observe relatively close ones. Nonetheless white dwarfs space thought come comprise about 10% that the stars in our galaxy. Nearby examples space Sirius B and also Procyon B, both of which are uncovered in binary systems.


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White dwarfs in the globular swarm M4. The white dwarfs (circled) are around 12 billion years old, the oldest yet observed and at 30th magnitude, additionally the faintest. For an ext details check out the press release.

The Chandrasekhar Limit

What is the upper-mass limit for a white dwarf? We may imagine the if we rise the fixed of a degenerate core it simply becomes smaller. Whilst this is true over there is a limit. If the mass of the mainly remnant over 1.4 solar masses climate the electron degenerate push is poor to withstand the pressure of gravity. The core will thus proceed to please and kind either a neutron star or a black hole. Both of this are questioned in an ext detail on the next page. The value of 1.4 solar masses is referred to as the Chandrasekhar limit after the Indian astrophysicist, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1910-1995). He winner the 1993 Nobel prize in Physics for this discovery and now has NASA"s X-ray observatory, Chandra, named in his honour. His theoretical calculations have so much held the observational check - no white dwarfs have been found with a mass greater than 1.4 solar masses.

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One allude to remember around this Chandrasekhar limit is the it describes the massive of the material in the remnant core after all various other mass loss. Stars loose a many their mass as they evolve off the main sequence and become one AGB. The top mass-limit for a main sequence star that will certainly go on to type a white dwarf fairly than a spirit star is not specifically known yet is thought to be about 8 solar masses. A 2 solar-mass star will certainly probably end up as a 0.7 solar-mass white dwarf. At present the lower-mass limit for any kind of white dwarf is around 0.6 solar masses. These dwarfs type from main sequence stars slightly less than 1 solar-mass. Main sequence stars much much less than this have not yet had actually time come evolve turn off the key sequence and type white dwarfs as the cosmos is not yet old enough.